Here are some helpful suggestions on how to display a work of sculpture to maximize your enjoyment. Subtleties such as lighting, the size and layout of the room, and what the sculpture is sitting on all affect how noticeable and impressive the sculpture is.
Being three dimensional, sculpture is all about light and shadow, raised and recessed areas. If there is too much shadow, you will not be able to see the work's detail and subtle nuances. Conversely, if there is too much light without any shadow, the piece will look washed out and lacking in depth and contrast.
Display your sculpture in a well-lit part of the room, preferably facing a light source. Avoid situations in which light is shining from behind the sculpture, as this is distracting and will cause shadows to dominate the front view of the sculpture.
Direct lighting is a good solution to providing your sculpture with just the right amount of shadow and light. If installing a spotlight, mount it above and slightly in front of the main viewing angle of the sculpture. If it is a larger work, more than one light might be good.
Natural lighting from windows, skylights, or outdoor settings is another excellent option to consider. Natural light provides the widest light spectrum, which will enhance the rich textures, patinas and coloration on your sculpture's surface. Natural light also changes throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky, allowing shadows to move across the sculpture in interesting ways.
If you give a sculpture the space and prominence in a room that it deserves, it will draw people's attention.
Match the design of a sculpture to the features of the room. Look at the design of the sculpture: Is it meant to be viewed from all sides or does it have a main point of interest with few details to observe from other angles? What is its shape - tall and skinny, low and wide, irregular, etcetera? These factors will help to determine if the work would go best in the middle of the room, along a wall, next to some furniture or in a corner.
Give your sculpture adequate space and display height. As a rule, room size will determine sculpture size. A big sculpture might overpower a small room, and a small sculpture might go unnoticed in a large room.
Sometimes sculptures work well with backdrops of two-dimensional art or other objects such as crystal, china or antiques.
What you set a sculpture on will influence how it looks. Some options include the floor, pedestals, tables, antique chests or furniture, and wall niches. Sofa tables around 36 inches tall are a good height for most pieces, but some sculptures may require more or less height.
Because its artistic quality is its main focus, it is easy to overlook safety concerns when displaying a sculpture.
Make sure that what you place the work on is strong enough to support its weight. Glass shelves, for example, are elegant but may not hold up to the weight of a bronze or stone sculpture.
Keep sculptures that are easy to knock over or that have sharp protrusions away from children.
If you plan to display a sculpture in a public or high-traffic area you might consider using a display case. This will protect the sculpture and give it its own space. Many display cases also come with lights so that the sculpture will be displayed under good lighting conditions no matter the lighting conditions in the rest of the room.
These are practical suggestions for displaying a sculpture, but there really are no rules. The main thing is to put a sculpture where you like it best. Collectors can express their own creativity by designing great arrangements or even changing things around from time to time. Wherever you display a sculpture, if it brings a smile to yourself and others, it is in the right place!